Internet as a source of medicines information (MI) among frequent internet users

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Abstract

Background:

The internet is widely and increasingly used to search for health information. Previous studies have focused mainly on health information on the internet and not specifically on medicines information (MI).

Objectives:

The aim of this study was to explore the internet as a source of MI compared to other sources of MI; to identify those who use the internet as a source of MI; and to describe patterns of use of the internet as a source of MI.

Methods:

A cross-sectional design employed a web-based questionnaire posted by patients' and other organizations as well as pharmacies on their websites during six weeks in the beginning of 2014. Logistic regression analysis was used to assess associations of background variables to the use of different MI sources.

Results:

The most frequently used MI sources among respondents (n = 2489) were package leaflets (90%), pharmacists (83%), physicians (72%), and the internet (68%). According to a multivariate analysis, internet use for MI was associated with female gender, age <65 years, higher education, daily use of the internet, and continuous use of vitamins or herbals. MI was most commonly searched from a Finnish health portal (56%) and websites of pharmacies (41%). Of the respondents, nearly half (43%) used search engines to find information from the internet. The names of the medicinal product, symptom or disease were the most commonly used search terms.

Conclusions:

Well-educated, young women tend to search MI on the internet. Health care professionals should discuss reliable MI websites and tools that can help patients evaluate the reliability of information.

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